Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) isn't a Dividend Aristocrat, but it appears to be making a long-term play at eventually becoming one. On Thursday, the telecom giant said it's raising its quarterly payout for the 14th year in a row. S&P 500 index components that accomplish this feat for a minimum of 25 years in a row become Aristocrats.
Whether or not it's aspiring to stock royalty, Verizon added just over $0.01 per share to the distribution, for a total of nearly $0.63. The new dividend is to be handed out on Nov. 2 to investors of record as of Oct. 9. Based on the most recent closing stock price, that yield will be 4.1%.
At the beginning of 2007, before that annual raise habit started to kick in, Verizon paid slightly more than $0.40 per share. The current level is more than 50% higher. Like its predecessor corporate entities, Verizon has been a very steady and reliable dividend payer, handing out a distribution in every quarter of its existence, even through challenging economic times.
With a wide and generally loyal base of customers paying at regular intervals, Verizon has very strong cash flow. In the company's most recently reported quarter, free cash flow topped $10 billion, far more than it required for the $2.5 billion or so it dispensed in shareholder dividends. It clearly has room for a raise, particularly a modest one like this latest bump.
Few investors hate dividend raises, so it's not surprising that Verizon stock rose (albeit slightly) on the news. They added 0.1% on Thursday, in sharp contrast to the decline of the major equity indexes.